A new report from Junior Achievement and Gallup shows that employers and employees alike believe that America’s workforce needs to become more “entrepreneurial” in order for the country to remain competitive in the global marketplace, and that K-12 classrooms are the place to start teaching entrepreneurship. This is in line with President Barack Obama’s call for “entrepreneurship” to be included with “problem-solving” and “critical thinking” as 21st-century skills to be incorporated into education standards and assessments.
The Gallup poll of 1,100 employers and employees shows that virtually all of those surveyed (95 percent of employers; 96 percent of employees) believe that the American workforce needs to become more entrepreneurial if America is to remain competitive. (Entrepreneurship was defined as “taking the initiative and assuming risk to create value for the company or business, either as an owner of your own business or in your place of work.”) Nearly half of employees (46%) and employers (41%) felt the best time to learn entrepreneurship is in the K-12 grades, surpassing college (employees 25%; employers 32%) and “on the job” (employees 17%; employers 16%). Only one in 10 (employees 11%; employers 9%) felt entrepreneurship is an innate skill that comes naturally.
These results support the work of Junior Achievement, which is at the forefront of preparing the workforce of tomorrow through K-12 programs that emphasize entrepreneurship, work-readiness and financial literacy. Locally, JA’s classroom reach has increased 265 percent since 2004. Hopefully, the number of students impacted by JA programs will increase as entrepreneurial education receives greater emphasis from the business and education communities in the coming years.
During his March 10th speech on education to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama called on the nation’s governors and state education chiefs to “develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st-century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.”
To help address the question of how America’s education system can change to foster a more “entrepreneurial workforce,” JA Worldwide (the global headquarters of Junior Achievement) formed the Junior Achievement Innovation Initiative. The goal is to conduct research and incorporate the best thinking of business leaders, workforce development organizations and educators to develop an action plan that Junior Achievement and other organizations can follow to help develop an “entrepreneurial workforce.”
Based on the findings of the Gallup research, in April 2009 the Initiative’s organizers brought together representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, Workforce Investment Boards, the Small Business Administration, and education and industry leaders to formulate a list of recommended actions. Recommended actions from this Initiative include:
- Enhance the concepts of self-motivation, innovation and risk-taking through entrepreneurial and experiential education and create alignment with this approach among schools, businesses and work-readiness organizations.
- Use additional research to determine if the promotion of self-motivation can lead to greater demand for a more rigorous and relevant curriculum from schools.
- Help key stakeholders, such as schools and local employers, recognize that motivation and mentorship are critical to the success of all young people.
- Recognize that both hard skills-such as math and science-and life skills-such as critical thinking and problem-solving-are required by an individual to be become marketable and successful.
- Help young people “learn to learn” and “learn to navigate” our existing education and workforce development systems to obtain those skills they will need to succeed. Embracing the concept of alternative pathways and encouraging some form of education beyond high school is critical as the workforce competencies accelerate rapidly. iBi